NCO Suspected of Giving Sensitive Intel to Hezbollah

A non-commissioned officer in the career army is suspected of spying for Hezbollah, according to records released yesterday when a gag order was partially lifted.

The NCO is a master sergeant serving in a logistics capacity on a northern IDF base who is suspected of receiving thousands of dollars for supplying Lebanese drug smugglers linked to Hezbollah with sensitive information on troop installations along the northern border. He also allegedly supplied traffickers with intelligence on IDF lookout stations, including those where surveillance equipment is lacking or of poor quality, making them ideal spots for smuggling and infiltration.

The suspect, a resident of a northern town whose identity is still under wraps, said under questioning that economic considerations had motivated him to cooperate with the smugglers.

His remand was extended yesterday at the Northern Command military court in Haifa. He is expected to be charged over the next few days with treason, sharing information with the enemy and contact with a foreign agent.

The prime suspect was arrested several weeks ago along with five other Western Galilee residents suspected of working with drug traffickers operating along the Lebanese border.

The other five suspects in the case are all residents of the Galilee villages of Jadeidi or Rameh (one is the son of the Rameh local council head ), and all have criminal records for drug violations. Two more suspects in the case have yet to be detained, though police said they do not believe any other IDF soldiers or officers are involved.

The remands of the five additional suspects were extended yesterday in Acre Magistrate's Court. They face charges related to contact with narcotics traffickers and attempted drug smuggling from Lebanon.

The suspects' attorneys said they firmly deny all suspicions against them, and that the case is based solely on testimony provided by the NCO.

A high-ranking officer in the Military Police investigation unit said the main suspect knew the intelligence he was delivering would be used not only for drug smuggling but also for Hezbollah operations. A relative said the suspect's family has "served the country for generations" and "denies all charges of any kind," adding: "This is a citizen and a soldier with spotless civilian and military records who served the State of Israel loyally and with all his heart."

Family members said the suspect served as a mechanic, a position that did not give him access to security operations, and that he had earned several citations from superiors.

Galilee District police said yesterday, "Determined, uncompromising action against drugs is bearing fruit, and the drug market is suffering through a drought. Still, the war against narcotics smuggling remains long."

For years, military and civilian police units have conducted joint operations to stem the flow of drugs from Israel to Lebanon. Hezbollah is believed to be heavily involved in narcotics trafficking to Israel - not only for profit, but also to glean information on Israeli security routines and plan attacks against civilians and troops.